March 17, 2008

Greatest Goalie Ever?
Martin Brodeur Winning Over This Skeptic

I like Martin Brodeur. A lot. If the Olympics started today, I'd want him above all others on Team Canada.

This past weekend Martin Brodeur broke his own NHL goaltending record with his seventh 40-win season. But even though he is a season or so away from owning some of goaltending most hallowed and once thought to be unreachable records, I was always on record that he would not assume the title of the greatest goalie in the game's history.

Maybe it's time to rethink that, Joe!

In my previous article I theorized that during Brodeur's greatest years he was always in the shadow of Roy and Dominik Hasek. Those two dominated the Vezina trophy and All Star spots, and Hasek even got the Hart nod twice.

Brodeur, on the other hand, was considered to be a notch below those two. Much of that might have had to do with New Jersey's notorious defensive game plan. Critics would give credit just enough of Brodeur's success to the team, and especially the blueliners in front of him.

Well I think we can eliminate that now. Last year Brodeur won another Vezina trophy while setting a NHL record 48 wins in a season. This season he's on pace for probably 44 or 45 wins, probably another All Star nod and who knows, maybe another Vezina.

And while New Jersey's overall game plan remains stifling as ever, gone are the days of Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, and Brian Rafalski patrolling the blue line. Now the defense core includes Mike Mottau, Sheldon Brookbank, Johnny Oduya and Andy Greene? Even veteran names like Colin White, Bryce Salvador and Paul Martin make you wonder how New Jersey is challenging for 1st place in the Eastern Conference.

I can tell you how: The great goaltending of Martin Brodeur. Just like it has been for the past 14 years.

1 comment:

vdkhanna said...

Who's the "greatest goalie ever": Brodeur, Hasek, or Roy? This is a classic question, one that my brother and I have debated several times before.

Naturally, as a decade-long Devils fan, and as the proud owner of a Brodeur jersey, I can easily affirm that Brodeur is the best one of the troika. Here are my main reasons why:

(1) Down to the fundamentals, his skills as a goalie trump those of the other two. His reflexes (both glove-side and stick-side) have always been far superior, and his positional play has always been far more sound. His hybrid style (stand-up mixed with butterfly) allows for him to change his posture and adapt to the surrounding action in front and to the sides. Roy could never adapt as such because he was stuck to a very formulaic style which, as we have come to see over the years, can open up many holes for shooters to capitalize on. Hasek......well, he didn't even have a style.........the circus-like displays which he put on for Buffalo fans reflected nothing more than his instability in the crease.

(2) Brodeur's puckhandling abilities are often dismissed as merely an extra asset. A gross understatement: they enhanced his role on the team. He became a sort of 3rd defenseman who could prevent dump-in-and-chasers from successfully recovering pucks and forechecking. He allowed for the Devils to transition from defense to offense with the greatest of ease, thanks to his crisp passing. It was he, more than anyone else, who prompted the league to change the rules and shift the center of gravity from defensive-based systems to offensive-based. (Needless to say, Brodeur has adapted even to this).

(3) His durability and consistency are simply astounding. Even though he annually logged in a dozen more games than his counterparts in net, he always remained in the Top 5 in GAA, Sv%, and other categories.

(4) He already owns a number of very important goaltending records. Those that are in sight over the next year or two, he will not just break............he will SHATTER them.